Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 29, 1861 (Tuesday): Benjamin Questions Johnston

Secretary of War Judah Benjamin

RICHMOND, September 29, 1861.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac:
SIR: Your letter of the 26th instant has been handed to me by Captain Preston, and has received the attention both of the President and myself. It is extremely difficult, even with the aid of such information as Captain Preston has been able to give us orally, as suggested by you, to determine whether or not we can furnish you the further means you may deem necessary to assume the active offensive. We have not in the Department a single return from your army of the quantity of ammunition, artillery, means of transportation, or sick in camp or in hospitals, to enable us to form a judgment of what your necessities may be. Having had charge of the War Department but a few days, my first effort was to master out situation, to understand thoroughly what we had and n what our deficiencies consisted, but I have been completely foiled at all points by the total absence of systematic returns. I beg to call your attention to this, as it will be obvious to you that the Department cannot be administered without a thorough reform in this respect. I have, therefore, earnestly requested the President to visit your headquarters in person, and to learn on confederence with you the rue position of your army in all respects, and the possibility of a prompt offensive movement. He has consented to this, and I hope will reach your camp will be carefully considered in disposing of the services of that justly esteemed officer.

I am, respectfully,

Acting Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 853

Benjamin and Johnston would soon be on a more adversarial footing.  Beyond the complaints Johnston would make with regard to his relative rank in the Army, he would also do his standing with Richmond no small amount of harm by being poorly organized.  Benjamin, who could slice and dice an opponent with a pen with the facility some would wield a word, here artfully points out to Johnston the administration cannot meet his needs if he cannot even tell him what his strength is and what his needs are.  It is the first volley of many fired between the two men. 

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